|Posted by Mary on June 19, 2014 at 11:30 PM|
I work at one of those tax places where there is a costumed waver on the curb beckoning customers to come in. I am the manager and have two wavers who work for me. One of my waver’s name is Julie and she is one of the strongest people that I have ever met.
I don’t mean strong in the physical sense, although I am sure that Julie could carry twice as much as I could on any given day, and without complaining. I am talking about the mental stamina needed to put up with emotional ups and downs, with a life that has not always been kind, and with challenges that would make most people not want to get out of bed in the morning.
Julie is 61 years old, and rides her bike to tax office on Monday through Friday mornings. While this may not sound that hard of a task, it is exceedingly hard, given the northern climate we live in. Minnesota winters, which span most of the tax season, can be cruel, harsh, bitterly cold and unpredictable. Julie manages to get her bike through any kind of weather without complaining.
Besides working for me from January through mid-April , she works a variety of seasonal jobs - a Salvation Bell Army ringer during the holidays, and a custodian at the State Fair during the last two weeks of August. If Julie can find another job to fill those gaps, I am sure she will. She gets foods stamps and help from the county. She pays for cable TV that her son enjoys through collecting cans. Amazingly enough, Julie pays for the $165 monthly cable bill through cans she finds on her way to work. She transports the cans on her bike. She laughingly told me one day someone called her “the can lady”, and she was proud of the fact.
This year when I hired Julie, we were having a particularly snowy brutal winter. I could not, in good faith, ask Julie to stand outside in below zero weather in an effort to attract customers. I would call Julie and tell her not to come to work until the temperature was about 10 degrees, which it seemed would never happen. When I called her to tell her not to come in, she seemed very emotionless and sad, and simply said “ok, Mary”. I attributed this to the fact that she was not getting any pay during this time, and was a little depressed over the lack of income. I had no reason to believe otherwise. Eventually, the weather warmed up (a term we use loosely in Minnesota) and Julie returned to a more routine daily work schedule.
One day, she asked if she could use the phone at 10 am, as she does not have a cell phone. She went in the back room, but I couldn’t help but overhear her conversation. It was with a county worker who was asking her questions about food stamp eligibility, and her family status.
“No, it’s just me and my son”
“No, he doesn’t live with me anymore. My boyfriend passed away last week. He had cancer.”
I listened, but could not believe the words I was hearing. Julie had worked for me the entire previous week. She had seemed a little sad on days, and I remember asking if she was ok. She always said “Yes Mary, I’m OK’, and went back to her work. I never imagined that she was going through something like this.
When she got off the phone, I asked her what had happened. She told me that she really didn’t like to talk about it, but that her boyfriend of 20 years had died last week. She told me she was going to his wake after work that day. Between saying that she didn’t like to talk about it, she told me how she would go to the hospital every day after work and sit with him during his final weeks. She told me how she felt like crying when she was out on the curb holding the sign “It’s Tax Time.” She told me how she has all his clothes hanging in the closet, but can’t bear to do anything with them. And then she said “But, I’m strong. I can get through this.”
Yes, Julie is truly stronger than most of us will ever be. I gave Julie a sympathy card the next day with some McDonald’s gift certificates, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to show Julie what a wonderful person she is. She never complains, looks on the bright side, in spite of all adversity, and is much stronger than I will ever be. I hope to see Julie next year when tax season comes around. I have learned so much from Julie, and no longer let little things upset me. I smell the roses and see silver linings.
Next time you see a waver like Julie, smile at them, and wave at them. Help to make the world a better place, and look at the bright side of things. Be strong, like Julie.